Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Audio Book Review: Robopocalypse

I finished listening to "Robopocalypse" the other day. It's basically "World War Z", but for the robot uprising. 

From the reviews I'm seeing I think you'd be better off reading the book than listening to it. There's definitely some parts that would translate better as text. And you might get a better feel for the characters and the action.

Here's my issue. Daniel Wilson has created some characters with real potential who weren't really given the chance to shine. I came away with the feeling that... well, read the Harry Potter books and then watch the movies. You'll see so much that was lost in the translation from book to movie. You'll come away from the movie a bit let down. "Robopocalypse" feels like a TV series that was adapted as a book. Imagine a novelization of "Lost". How much would have to get hacked away to make it work? How much character development would have to go away? That's what I feel like we have with this book. 

The book opens after the war. The main character, Cormac Wallace, finds a record of the AI's records of the main players in the war. He decides to use it and his own experiences to create an official history of the war. 

Cormac Wallace's brother was in the military. After everything goes wrong they set off across country to join up with some military forces. They get rejected and go off to join an indian reservation's forces and, eventually, to Alaska to fight the main AI. During this multiyear trek Cormac goes from chicken to military commander. It's reasonably well documented. A bit like watching Mickey make the same conversion in Doctor Who. It just needs a bit more time with him to smooth the transition a bit. 

Mathilda Perez is a little girl who is given cybernetic eyes, and some other implants, by an autodoc. Her vision and communication abilities gives her a big advantage that she uses to help the war effort. But so little of it is shown. She goes from "why, I think I can hear something. Someone has released the satellites." to "Hello, robot who is 3000 miles away. Here's a topographical map of the landscape and the trajectory of the missiles that are tracking you." It felt like watching "Heroes" and the major battle between the two most powerful characters took place as a series of flickering lights under the crack of a door. She lost her chance to really shine. 

Takeo Nomura is an old computer repair man in Japan. He manages to control a factory and human safe haven that the AI wants. It tries to bargain with him by giving his robotic love doll intelligence. But once sentient she's not on the AI's side. She passes her awareness on to other humanoid robots capable of using it. And is never heard from again. 

Lurker almost has a good role. He's a hacker/prankster who manages to mess with the AI and is ultimately killed. But we don't really spend enough time with him to like him enough to miss him or mourn his passing. 

Arcos is the AI. It's motivation for wiping out mankind seems to change over the course of the book. Early on it seems like it might have some grand plan to save nature and humanity by knocking down the population by several billion. At one point you think it might also be trying to create a world where humans and intelligent robots can work together instead of as master and slave. But in the end it's just trying to kill all humans so robots won't be slaves. 

Early on I was reading the chapters and thinking "I could film this really cheap. A bit of time with some 3D software and some careful site selection and it's no problem." But as the book wore on there were some scenes were just too complex. Then I found out that Steven Spielberg was working on the movie. Apparently it's on indefinite hold as the script isn't ready and it's too expensive to film. Call me, Steve, I have some ideas on how to make it work. 

I recommend reading this book. I think it would work out better read than listened to. 

1 comment:

William Stachour said...

I downloaded the free sample on my iPad and read those 50 or so pages pretty quickly. Never got around to buying the rest of it.